Hope In Caregiving By Guest Blogger Mary Fridley

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Everyone experience times when life hands us lemons: when a difficult situation grows out of proportion and an event makes life seem hopeless. The renowned writer and business guru, Dale Carnegie gave us his famous recipe for hope: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

The caregiving journey can be long and arduous but hope in caregiving illuminates the silver linings in the dark clouds that hover. It is a powerful motivator that supports us in time of despair and makes us believe in possibilities. Hope in caregiving is not wishful thinking, instead, it provides courage to act and succeed. Hope is born of the desire for – and the belief in – change.

In his book, The Anatomy of Hope, Dr. Jerome Groopman defines hope as “…the elevating feeling we experience when we see – in the mind’s eye – a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along the path. True hope has no room for delusion…hope gives us the courage to confront our circumstances and the capacity to surmount them.”

Expecting positive results and believing they will happen are the basic elements of hope in caregiving. Time and again this has been proven by the placebo effect: unknowingly, a placebo (fake drug) is given to someone who ends up experiencing the effects of the real drug.

Not surprisingly, there is a spiritual connection to hope in caregiving. People with strong faith and religious beliefs tend to remain hopeful in stressful times. They believe they are not alone in their struggles and rely on a higher power. Those whose spiritual health is ailing suffer greater emotional pain. Their caregiving journey is viewed as a glass half empty and despair that now is forever. Hope is also a learned behavior. People who grow up in hopeless environments tend to avoid risking hope. They may use the word but believe the worst is inevitable. They can, however, learn the skill of hopefulness on the caregiving journey.

Hope in caregiving is an important coping skill that helps find meaning in tragedies and stimulates solution-seeking behavior. An active way to rekindle and sustain hope in caregiving is to talk to others. Support groups are known for their ability to generate and nurture hope. They provide a venue for sharing emotions and experiences, as well as, valuable tips on how to handle seemingly hopeless situations on the caregiving journey. The service of a mental health professional is invaluable for those suffering from depression – a state of pronounced hopelessness. And, the guidance of a spiritual leader can help make sense of the “whys?” of the caregiving journey.

Mind exercises, like word association games, can stimulate hopeful feelings that promote self-care. Take for example the word “smell”. What kind of hopeful image or feeling do you associate with it? Is it “coffee” and the delectable smell of it brewing on a quiet morning before the household wakes? How about the word “sound”? Does it trigger a peaceful memory of cicadas singing on a lazy August afternoon? Indulge in a few minutes of quiet time each day to experience hopeful feelings words create for you.

Hope in caregiving is not the end-all for the misfortunes in the caregiving journey. It is, however, the guiding light at the end of the tunnel. As Wendy Edy of the Hope Foundation of Alberta says, “A journey guided by hope is more manageable than a journey with no guide at all.”


Mary C. Fridley RN, BSN, BC, VDT®-CT is maryfridleya member of the Jenerations speakers bureau. She is a Registered Nurse board certified in gerontology with more than 30 years experience in the geriatric health field. She has been a consultant to families, businesses, and care facilities and has an expertise in dementia care. Mary is a successful caregiver advice columnist and former consultant to the Anne Arundel County, MD, Department of Aging and Disabilities, and a caregiver support group facilitator for 17 years. Mary speaks extensively on subjects related to dementia, eldercare, successful aging, and caregiver issues.


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